What Happens When You Stop Labeling Food As Good or Bad?

The holiday season is a time of celebration, but maintaining balanced eating habits during this time can be challenging. Diet culture has led us to think about foods as good or bad, and by labeling foods in this way, we’ve come to believe that some foods are off-limits while others are the only ones that belong on our plates. 

It’s time to change that mindset. 

When we label food as off-limits, the natural human tendency is to over-indulge when they are available. Psychologically, we perceive these “bad” foods as something we would not usually get to eat, so when we DO, we go overboard. In these moments, we fail to use our hunger signals to direct our decisions and instead rebel against strict food rules that did not need to be in place, to begin with. 

To top it all off, when we overeat a particular food that is “bad,” we tell ourselves that WE are bad and that we should feel guilty. In doing so, we lose our ability to recognize what our body needs, AND we feel guilty when our decisions don’t line up with the high expectations we have set for ourselves. 

Not quite how I’d like to close out the year.

What would it look like if we took away the good and bad labels? What would this type of freedom look and feel like for you? Do you trust your body to make decisions based truly on your hunger signals? 

The holidays are a great time to reflect on this perspective because – let’s face it – it’s nearly impossible to avoid rich and decadent meals during this time of year. And while it may seem like the riskiest time to test your abilities, it can serve as an excellent opportunity to see what you’re capable of. Instead of shying away, tackle this challenge head-on! 

What’s the worst that could happen? 

Give yourself the gift of that inner dialogue, that moment to intentionally eat in a way that nourishes your body AND your soul. And remember, there is no such thing as good and bad food. It’s all about balance. So enjoy, indulge, and most importantly, trust yourself to make the right choices for your body. 

You’ve got this!

For guidance on mindful eating read our 3 Tips For Healthy Holiday Eating here.


Dr. Sheila Varshney is a registered dietitian with a doctoral degree in nutrition in public health and a mom of two young children. After spending over a decade helping individuals adopt healthier eating habits, she’s learned that making simple changes is the key to better eating. Dr. Varshney believes a healthy diet consists of whole foods and avoiding highly processed foods as much as possible. She also believes in the value of food beyond nutrition, namely its social and cultural importance, and reflects this through her work.

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